Last post we talked about developing and following a plan to keep your New Year’s Healthy Living Resolutions.  This post I’m going to show you how simple that is to do.

Wanting to live a healthy life implies that you have a Vision of what that would look like for you in the future after you’ve achieved your objectives and goals.

So, your first step is to write your Vision Statement.  Write your statement is the present tense, as if it is real NOW – but pretend you are living in a “perfect future” where you have already achieved your goals – as well as continue to sustain them.

Everyone’s Vision Statement will be different, but here’s an example:

“Every day I enjoy eating a delicious, plant-based, healthy, and nutritious diet.  I look forward to my daily walks as well as other physical activities such as gardening and riding my bike as they both relax and invigorate me.  My diabetes is well-controlled and my blood pressure is within normal limits.  I am filled with energy and vitality that allow me to enjoy life to the fullest.”

Writing a Vision Statement is not “wishful thinking”.  The very fact that your vision statement isn’t real for you NOW is where the power of your vision lies.

Because, if you want to make it real, you are a “Man – or Woman – with a mission.”

Your second step is to write your Mission Statement.  Your Mission Statement is written from the perspective of NOW.  It briefly answers the following questions:

  • What is/are the purpose(s) of my goals?
  • What are my goals (resolutions)?

Again, everyone’s Mission Statement will be different – but here’s one that could have been written for the Vision Statement that I’ve given as an example:

“Lowering my risk of developing diabetes and lowering my blood pressure is essential in order for me to live a healthy life.  To achieve these goals this year I base my daily diet on sound nutrition and exercise most days of the week.  Every day I follow my plan brings me more energy and vitality that allows me to contribute to the well being of those I love and work with as well as my own.”

You’ll notice that your Mission Statement has three elements:

  • Purpose (Objective): Lower risk of diabetes and lower blood pressure.
  • Goals: Consume a nutritious diet daily and exercise most days.
  • Reason: To contribute to your own well being and that of others.

Your third step is to identify the “ways”- strategies and tactics – you use to achieve your goals.  Let’s use “Consume a nutritious diet” as our example:

  • Make initial appointment with holistic nutritionist.
  • Follow nutritional plan devised by nutritionist.
  • Maintain a daily food journal to document my progress.
  • Shop weekly to ensure I have appropriate foods on hand.
  • Make and eat breakfast at home daily.
  • Bring my lunch to work.

Your fourth step is to review your plan on the same day each week. As you review your plan you’ll note any obstacles or challenges you may anticipate as far as achieving your goals.  For instance, maybe you have a business luncheon to attend and won’t be able to bring your sack lunch to work.

You know that you won’t be served anything close to healthy – so you plan to eat an apple on the way there, scrape the fat (I mean sauce) off the rubber chicken, and eat only the veggies and salad provided – skipping the fat (I mean whatever “starch” covered in sauce or butter they place in front of you.)

When you review your plan and can anticipate a challenge you can then adjust the tactics you will use to achieve your goals.  It is always a good idea to actually write this adjustment down prior to the actual event.  Knowing what you will be doing goes a long way to actually doing  it.  Keeping a little daily appointment book or journal (either pen and ink or using your iPod or phone) is essential as this allows to track and measure your progress.

Done.  Now, that wasn’t so complicated after all.

Well, the time has come.  2010 is biting the dust and we welcome in a New Year – and the New Year, of course, brings with it the tradition of “New Year’s Resolutions.”

Some of you may have given up on the tradition – most resolutions don’t make it past the end of January, so what’s the use?  Why is that?

It might help if we take a look at what we’re trying to do when we make a resolution – and most resolutions involve making a change in our behavior.  We’re either going to stop doing something – or start doing something – that we don’t do, or don’t do consistently.

When we make a resolution what we’re really doing is setting an objective or goal for ourselves to meet.  I expect that at least a few of you reading this post have made a resolution that sounds something like this “I’m going to live a healthier life” or “I’m going to get healthy” – something along those lines.

Living a “healthier life” and “getting healthy” definitely involves changing our behaviors. You may even have a general idea of what you need to start/stop doing to make that happen and/or you may have some pretty specific goals in mind.

So why do most of us fail when it comes to keeping our resolutions?

We don’t have a plan.  You may argue that point with me – “Yes I do.  I’m going to eat more vegetables and walk every day.”  That’s not a plan for getting healthy – those are tactics for getting healthy.

What’s the difference?  A plan is followed in order to reach those objectives and goals using strategies and tactics designed to achieve those objectives and goals – otherwise known as “Resolutions”.  If you’ve identified an objective or goal you need to plan how to reach it.

Using our example of “I’m going to eat more vegetables and walk every day” let me ask you a pretty important couple of questions:

  • What ways have you identified to put your objectives and goals into practice?
  • How are you going to track and measure your progress?

The “Ways” you are going to achieve your goals are obviously pretty important elements of keeping a resolution.  For instance:

  • When/where will you purchase your veggies?  What veggies will you buy?  Do you know what types of veggies you should be eating?  How will you cook those veggies?  What will you do if you didn’t  have time to go buy fresh veggies?
  • When/where will you walk?  How long will you walk for?  Will you walk with another or alone?  How much should you walk?  What will you do if something comes  up and you can’t take your walk when you planned?

“How are you going to track/measure your progress” is an important – if not the most important – element of keeping our resolutions.  Having your “Ways” are only one step – you must have the “Means” to document – or “prove” – you are engaging in the behaviors (the “ways”).  Not only does measuring and tracking “prove” you are “keeping” your resolutions – they also measure the results of the ways you’ve chosen to achieve your goals.

After all, they may not work as well as you thought they would and need to be adjusted.

Additionally, if we don’t measure what we are doing – and then track that – it is much too easy for us to “fall off track”.  Measuring and tracking our progress also helps to keep us motivated to continue along the track we’ve set for ourselves.

So, if you’ve already set your New Year’s Resolutions – or are still putting them together today, they must include developing a plan that both describes the “Way’s” as well as the “means” to keep them.

If this is the first post of mine you’re reading you might be thinking, “That’s way too complicated!”  If you’re a regular reader you may be thinking, “I thought you were the ‘Keep it Simple’ guy!”

I still am.  Having a plan is what keeps it simple – and doable.

I have a friend who was recently diagnosed with fibromyalgia.  She was recently diagnosed, but had been suffering from the signs and symptoms of fibromyalgia for years.

Her first task was getting a medical professional to take her symptoms seriously.  Research has demonstrated that there is a vast difference in the way physicians respond to symptomatic complaints depending on whether or not the person complaining is male or female.  When a male patient has complaints these are more likely to be followed up on.  In other words a serious attempt based on medical science is made to diagnose and/or rule out specific conditions or diseases the symptoms may represent.

While that’s a subject for another post, it is relative to my friend’s experience because she had to work her way through a “double whammy”.  Not only was she a female trying to get her symptoms taken seriously, her particular symptoms were of the sort that one might even expect her physician to respond by reassuring her that she was “fine” physically – was there anything going on in her personal life?  Did she feel depressed and/or anxious?  Maybe she would benefit from seeing a therapist.

Just what are the signs and symptoms of fibromyalgia?

Briefly fibromyalgia is characterized by experiencing generalized aching pain that is accompanies by specific tenderness and/or pain in specific “spots” on the body.

According to the National Fibromyalgia Association, some of the common signs and symptoms are:


  • Pain
    The pain of fibromyalgia is profound, chronic and widespread. It can migrate to all parts of the body and vary in intensity. FM pain has been described as stabbing and shooting pain and deep muscular aching, throbbing, and twitching. Neurological complaints such as numbness, tingling, and burning are often present and add to the discomfort of the patient. The severity of the pain and stiffness is often worse in the morning. Aggravating factors that affect pain include cold/humid weather, non-restorative sleep, physical and mental fatigue, excessive physical activity, physical inactivity, anxiety and stress.
  • Fatigue
    In today’s world many people complain of fatigue; however, the fatigue of FM is much more than being tired after a particularly busy day or after a sleepless night. The fatigue of FM is an all-encompassing exhaustion that can interfere with occupational, personal, social or educational activities. Symptoms include profound exhaustion and poor stamina
  • Sleep problems
    Many fibromyalgia patients have an associated sleep disorder that prevents them from getting deep, restful, restorative sleep. Medical researchers have documented specific and distinctive abnormalities in the Stage 4 deep sleep of FM patients. During sleep, individuals with FM are constantly interrupted by bursts of awake-like brain activity, limiting the amount of time they spend in deep sleep.
  • Other symptoms/overlapping conditions
    Additional symptoms may include: irritable bowel and bladder, headaches and migraines, restless legs syndrome (periodic limb movement disorder), impaired memory and concentration, skin sensitivities and rashes, dry eyes and mouth, anxiety, depression, ringing in the ears, dizziness, vision problems, Raynaud’s Syndrome, neurological symptoms, and impaired coordination.

I highlighted some of these specific symptoms to emphasize how easy it can be for not only one’s medical provider to attribute these symptoms to “psychological” origins – but for those of us who may actually be suffering from fibromyalgia to dismiss our own symptoms for similar reasons.

So, how IS fibromyalgia diagnosed?

The answer is – not easily.  As a matter-of-fact, my friend’s experience isn’t unusual.  Again, according to the NFA, it takes an average of five years for fibromyalgia to be diagnosed.  Not only are the symptoms often confused with “psychosomatic” symptoms caused by depression or anxiety disorders, the other side of the coin is that they are often confused with other conditions and diseases resulting in numerous and expensive medical tests – that most often are negative.

Frustrating for both patient and doctor.

And it doesn’t stop there.  While the American College of Rheumatology has established a criteria upon which to base a diagnosis of fibromyalgia – even some Rheumatologists  question whether or not fibromyalgia is an actual “disease”– or is a condition that is, in fact, a by-product of a psychosomatic disorder.

Sort of:  “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?”

However, my friend doesn’t really care if it’s, as she says, “All in my head or all in body” – what she cares about is feeling better.

So, how is fibromyalgia treated?

Traditional medicine seems to look to treat both sides of the equation using medication, psychological, and manipulative therapies to treat fibromyalgia.  For instance, a patient might be prescribed analgesics to reduce muscle and joint pain, antidepressants to assist with sleep, cognitive therapy counseling to increase the patient’s ability to cope with the condition, as well as physical therapy to reduce pain and improve balance.

In the case of fibromyalgia the goal is not to “cure” (as, so far, there is none) but rather to lessen the severity of the symptoms and thereby improve the quality of the patient’s life.

Those who have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia may be quite uncomfortable taking medications, be they analgesics or antidepressants – which is definitely understandable.  Hopefully you are working with an integrative medicine physician – or at least a doctor who is willing to work with their patients who want to pursue more “natural” remedies.  If not, I would seriously suggest one seek such a physician.

A good place to begin researching possible alternatives to drug therapy for fibromyalgia is well-known integrative medicine physician Dr. Andrew Weil’s website.  This information, as well as other information available via reputable alternative and integrative medicine resources can be brought to your physician and a treatment program agreed upon between patient and physician.

What I found very interesting when researching an integrative treatment approach for fibromyalgia it included “the basics” for living a healthy life:  a diet based on colorful, plant-based foods, regular activity, proper hydration, and stress-reduction techniques .

You can find additional information on each of these subjects by using the search tool on this blog – as well as investigate the vast expertise available whether it be on the Internet or the shelves of your local bookstore.

If you feel that you may have fibromyalgia but your doctor’s just not listening OR if you have symptoms similar to those discussed here and the resources quoted – make an appointment with a physician who has experience in diagnosing this condition – or it is disease?

Does it matter?






Since I post a healthy living blog I do quite a bit of blog surfing myself – and I’ve noticed something pretty interesting during my travels.  When I do a search, whether on Google, Facebook, WordPress, or Blogger (to name just a few) and use the key words “healthy living” or “healthy diet” – a huge number of the sites that pop up are not about living a healthy life per se – they are about losing weight.

Which of course gave me an idea for a blog post.

When most of us think of the word “diet” losing weight is what comes to mind.  With over 60% of the American adult population overweight that doesn’t come as any surprise.  We all know that, if you want to lose weight, you naturally “go on a diet”.  But what the word “diet” really means is “the food that a person or animal usually consumes” – which those of interested in healthy living would mean healthy, nutrition packed food.

What most of us refer to as a “diet” is really just a type of diet – in this case a diet that is restricted (usually calories, but can also be restricted to certain types of food) in order to result in weight loss.

So when did all this dieting actually start?  For instance, did Cleopatra diet as we think of the word?  As far as I could find out (using the Internet as my only resource), the first person that history records as doing anything we in the modern world would consider “going on a diet” was William the Conqueror.  I did discover that Olympians in ancient Greece at one time followed what might be considered an “Atkins” approach to their training diet.

It made sense to me that a restricted diet wasn’t a huge part of most of human history when you consider that for most of human history getting enough to eat was more usually the case.

I found it rather ironic when I discovered that in America, “health spas” seem to trace back to proponents of “eating for health” rather than “eating to lose weight”.  In the late 1800’s “health sanatoriums” along with a movement that supported the concepts of “healthful living” became very popular – for those who could afford them.  As a matter-of-fact many of the major cereal brands such as Post and Kellog began as commercially produced healthy cereals for the masses.  I also found it interesting that many of the practices of healthy living were influenced by Seventh Day Adventists.

Today if we put out the dough to spend a few days at a health spa we’d better lose a few pounds in the process.  And most breakfast cereals contain unhealthy corn syrup and other unnatural additives.  What a difference 100 years or so can make!

I think the reason why so many weight loss blogs pop up when I’m looking for “healthy living” blogs is simply a sign of the times.  Obesity, after all, is pretty much endemic in the United States – and, unfortunately “endemic” means “characteristic of a particular place, or group”.  In other words, being “fat”(to use a politically incorrect word) is becoming a shared characteristic of the people in our nation.

It is a sad state of affairs when, for what appears to be a majority of Americans, “getting healthy” means losing weight simply because most of us ARE overweight.  After all, obesity places us at great risk to our health as it is the underlying cause of many diseases.

But all is not bleak.  There are bloggers (including me)out there promoting the fact that “healthy living” NOT “going on a diet” is the only true remedy when it comes to not only losing weight, but maintaining that loss.  The reason for this is simple:  A healthy weight is the natural by-product of healthy living.



Anyone who’s read even just a few of my posts knows I love to tell people that living a healthy life doesn’t need to be complicated.  But, when it comes to nutrition things do seem to get a bit complicated.  You don’t have to be a nutritionist to structure a healthy, plant-based daily diet.

Most of us have heard that colorful fruits and vegetables are the ones packed with the most essential nutrients are bodies require to function optimally.  If you were to include 3-4 different deeply colored vegetables and fruits for a total of 5-6 servings per day you could pretty well assume you were well on your way to eating “healthy”.

Why is color so important?  For one thing deep color indicates that the fruit or vegetable is high in antioxidants (read my post on antioxidants) that protect the cells of our bodies from damage.  Antioxidants are a type of phytochemical – and there are other important phytochemicals  contained in colorful fruits and vegetables.

Just what are some of these other phytochemicals?

Allicin – Garlic and some other types of onion.  Some research seems to indicate that allicin can lower bad cholesterol as well as perhaps encourage anti-cancer enzyme production.

Capsaicin – Like Mexican and other ethnic foods that include hot peppers?  If you do the capsaicin they contain could reduce blood clotting.

Carotenoids – (see my article on carotenes)  While carotenoids are thought to be an anti-cancer phytochemical, too much (“megadoses”) could actually increase the incidence of cancer in smokers.

Flavinoids – This phytochemical may assist with memory as well as help to protect against cardiovascular disease.

Indoles – Specifically found in cruciferous vegetables indoles appear to be able to keep carcinogens from attacking DNA.

Isothiocyanates – Also found in cruciferous vegetables.  The anti-cancer function of isothiocyanates is that it appears to block production of enzymes associated with the development of cancers.  Broccoli is a particularly good source.

Lignans – Flax seed is a good source of this phytochemical (found in whole grains/certain types of seeds).  Thought to keep estrogen positive cancers from spreading (metastasizing).

Limonene – Not surprisingly found in citrus fruits and research has shown limonenes to inhibit the growth of cancerous cells.

Lycopene – Found in tomatoes where cooking actually increases the viability to slow the growth of prostate and other cancers.  Also found in grapefruit, watermelon, and papaya.

Phenolic  Acids – This phytochemical is present in many fruits and promotes the production of enzymes that change some carcinogens into a watersoluble form that can be excreted from the body.

Phytic  acid – Eat whole grains to inhibit free radical activity (read my post on free radicals).

Phytosterols – Contained in soybeans and is very similar to the steroid estrogen produced by our bodies.  This may slow the growth of some cancers, but there is some current controversy regarding taking supplements.

Resveratrol – Lowers blood clotting, found in grapes, red wine, and peanuts.

Saponins – Could slow down the growth rate of cancer cells.  Found in legumes (beans).

Tannins – Like resveratrol, found in grapes and wine – also in some teas.  Could inhibit cancer cells from activating.

Vitamin C – Could lower the risk of oral cancers.

After reading that list I’m afraid I’ve convinced you that living healthy IS complicated – but here’s the good news – you don’t have to memorize what color fruits and vegetables contain which phytochemicals.

Instead, simply “know your colors” – meaning aim to eat at least 3-4 different colored vegetables and fruits daily for a total of 5-8 servings.  What colors are you looking for?  Again, simple:

  • Red
  • Orange
  • Yellow
  • Green
  • Blue
  • Purple
  • White

Here’s how simple you can make it:  Write these colors down on a 3X5 card and take it with you to the produces section of the grocery store – or, even better, your local Farmer’s Market.  Don’t leave until you’ve placed 1-2 different types of veggie and/or fruit for each color in your basket.




“Chicken soup is good for a cold.”  Fact or fiction?

Many traditional docs will tell you that this is a fact.  Medical researchers have identified a substance in chicken soup that reduces the inflammation we experience with a cold – and it is inflammation which produces the miserable side effect of those nasty cold viruses – mucous production which, in turn, it what  causes us to cough, stuffs up our noses, and sneeze to beat the band.

Those of us who endeavor to live a healthy life are not totally immune to coming down with a nasty cold or other common minor illnesses and conditions.  But those of us who do what we can do live a healthy life quite often already have their pantries stocked with potential home remedies that we might not be aware of.

I thought it would be both interesting, as well as useful, to take a look at some of these remedies.  But, as always, if you are taking any medications and/or are under the care of a medical professional, make sure you let them know what you’re doing as they may interfere with any medications or treatments you may be undergoing.

Most of the remedies that I discovered don’t come with the research that chicken soup has undergone.  The benefits of home remedies are often “anecdotal” – which means they benefits are reported by people who have used them.  Many traditional physicians have a tendency to either disregard anecdotal evidence of the efficacy of home remedies – or attribute any relief of symptoms their patients might receive from such remedies as “psychosomatic”.  In other words, since the patient “believes” they will feel better they perceive relief even if it isn’t “real”.

I don’t know about you – but if there is a home remedy that doesn’t involve introducing unnatural toxins and chemicals into my body that relieves symptoms of minor illness or conditions and doesn’t cause any harm – well, that makes more sense than running out to the drug store to purchase over the counter drugs that HAVE well-documented undesirable side effects.

Here are just a few home remedies for some common minor ailments:

  • A teaspoon of apple cider vinegar mixed with 1/2 cup of warm water taken when you feel you might be “catching a cold” might either let you skip it completely or reduce its severity.  Drink several glasses per day.
  • For a runny nose mix just a pinch (maybe half a teaspoonful) of salt into 8 ounces of warm water.  Being sure to have washed your hands well, dip your finger into the mixture (or you can use a dropper), tip your head back, and let it run back into one nostril.  Hold it there for a few seconds, and then blow your nose.  Repeat on the other nostril.
  • Can’t get into the dentist and have a toothache?  Dip a cotton ball into some vodka or whiskey and place it on the affected tooth – this will act as a local anesthetic until you see your dentist.
  • Sunburn pain?  Mash up some strawberries and apply directly to the affected area.
  • If you suffer with acne baking soda is a great exfoliant – you can also apply mashed garlic directly to a pimple.
  • On their website  Healing Journey – Energy you’ll find a fairly extensive list of home remedies to treat everything from minor cuts and wounds to sprains.

While there is no denying that modern medicine has increased our life spans as well as discovered and created treatments for diseases that were once a certain death sentence – it is also true that for thousands and thousands of years people successfully used natural substances to treat and prevent illness.

This post provides me with another opportunity to suggest that those of us looking to live a healthy life find and work with integrative medical professionals who possess the training necessary to work together to assist us in our efforts to live a healthy life.










All too many of us have either heard a family member or friend complain of having “dizzy spells”.  And many of us may have had that uncomfortable experience ourselves.  And, whether we know it or not, most of us have a family member or friend who is at imminent and great risk of having a heart attack.  Or perhaps we’ve been told by our physician that we’re at risk.

Having survived both a heart attack and stroke myself, as we gather with friends and family during the holidays, I thought it would be a good time to review the signs and symptoms of both heart attack and stroke.

Most people are familiar with the symptoms of a heart attack but, let’s take a moment to review the most common symptoms according to the American Heart Association:

  • Chest discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.
  • Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. Symptoms can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
  • Shortness of breath. May occur with or without chest discomfort.
  • Other signs: These may include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness
  • Women’s most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort. But women are somewhat more likely than men to experience some of the other common symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting, and back or jaw pain.

While heart attack is a major cause of death in the United States – about 1.1 million people suffer a heart attack each year and about half of these people die –

The incidence of stroke is not far behind.  At least 700,000 people with suffer a stroke in 2011 – this translates into a stroke occurring about every 45 seconds.   Many of us know that partial paralysis, usually affecting only one side of the body, is a symptom that someone might be having a stroke.  Again, for safety’s sake, let’s review the signs and symptoms of a stroke as per the American Heart Association:

  • Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
  • Sudden, severe headache with no known cause



(If you, or someone else is experiencing any of the signs and symptoms of either a heart attack or stroke – call 911 and seek medical help immediately.)




There is also a type of stroke that is not as apparent as a major stroke.  Something called a Transient Ischemic Attack – or TIA.  This type of stroke is often referred to as a “Mini Stroke”.  The symptoms of a TIA are the same as that of a stroke – but with a major difference that all too often results in the symptoms being ignored or dismissed as “nothing to worry about.”

When someone has a stroke, it is a “permanent” thing.  When someone has a TIA, the body is able to repair itself.  Permanent strokes are either “ischemic”, “hemorrhagic”, or a combination of the two.

An ischemic stroke is caused by something that physically blocks blood flow into the brain (such as a blood clot.0  This causes brain cells to die.  It is the most common type of stroke.

A hemorrhagic stroke is when blood leaks into the brain when a blood vessel “ruptures” (breaks) and blood leaks into the brain.  This places pressure on the brain and causes brain cells to die.

However, when someone experiences a TIA, although there is damage to brain cells, the stroke “resolves” with no medical intervention (essentially this means that either the physical blockage or blood leaking into the brain ceases on its own).  In most cases there is no – or extremely little – noticeable neurological damage.  A TIA may last for just a few minutes – or as long as 24 hours.

Signs and symptoms of a TIA are also often dismissed not only because they “don’t last” – but they can also be very mild – numbness in an arm or limb, difficulty “finding” words.  Because the symptoms can be subtle, TIAs are often referred to as a “Silent Stroke”.

But, while a TIA may be a “Mini Stroke” – it is still a stroke and is a major sign indicating the likelihood  of an impending severe stroke.  Signs and symptoms of a TIA should never be ignored.

No matter what our age, we need to be aware of the signs and symptoms of both heart attack and stroke.  Whether we experience them ourselves, or are with someone who is experiencing them, in both instances minutes can make the difference between life and death.


Did you know that the word “salt” is where we get the word “salary”?

Throughout human history salt has caused wars and created economies. Many of the great explorers set out for the purpose of finding salt because it helped to fill the King’s treasury.  One of the ways the English thought they’d beat us during the War of Independence was to deny us access to salt.  During different periods and within different cultures salt was given a value higher than that of gold or silver – and was even used in lieu of “money” as a means of exchange in the marketplace.

Salt was used for many things – preserving food is perhaps the most familiar to us.  But even thousands of years ago it was understood that salt was necessary for life.

So, just how does the body use salt?

The reason why the body needs salt is that it allows electricity to be conducted in water.  It is what is called an “electrolyte”.  It is via an electrical charge that nutrients and other chemicals find their way to where our body needs them to be.

No salt – no electrical charge.

Big problems.

The body uses salt together with potassium – which is another electrolyte.  Your body requires a specific balance of salt and potassium in order to move nutrients and other chemicals in – and their waste products out – of cells.  Sodium is what pushes water into the cell (and along with it those nutrients and other substances cells need to function) – potassium is in charge of flushing out the waste material once the cells have processed the substances brought into them via salt and water.

And here is where problems develop.

Obviously, salt is “good” for our body – but, as we all know, humans are very susceptible to the old adage “too much of a good thing”.

For one thing – it sure makes the price come down.  Today, rather than a valuable resource, salt has become a cheap means to both “enhance” the flavor of food as well as extend shelf life.

As a result the normal American adult consumes about the weight of a 15 pound bowling ball in salt per year when, in fact, the body only requires that we consume 500 mg a day, which translates into 6.43 ounces a year – just a couple ounces more than your average bar of soap.

Now imagine – in one hand you’re holding a 15 pound bowling ball, in the other a bar of soap.  I’d say that’s overdoing it more than just a bit when it comes to how much salt we’re consuming.

Too much salt causes a variety of not only “not good” but potentially life-threatening things to go haywire in our bodies.

In essence, our kidneys are in charge of removing the salt water excreted from our cells in our urine.  When the kidneys are asked to process too much salt, it “backs up” into our blood.  Remember that sodium attracts water.  What this means is that too much salt actually increases the volume of blood in our bodies.  In turn, this makes our hearts work harder to move that extra blood and this, in turn, increases the pressure on the arteries in the body.

You got it – high blood pressure.

Now, high blood pressure is only one of a variety of problems that excessive intake of salt can either “cause” or make worse (exacerbate).

But high blood pressure kills enough of us to (hopefully) get our attention.

So, let’s get back to that bowling ball of salt we’re eating.  Cutting back from eating the weight of a bowling ball’s worth of salt to that of a bar of soap sounds like a very difficult prospect.  But here’s the good news:

Cutting just 3 grams of salt per day from your diet has astounding health benefits.  What does 3 grams a day look like over a year’s time?  About 2.5 pounds – around the weight of a pair of men’s bowling shoes.

What does 3 grams of salt translate into when you’re talking measuring spoons?  One teaspoon.

According to a study conducted by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), Stanford University and Columbia University doing so “would be as good for the heart as cutting tobacco use by half, lowering one’s body mass index 5% or taking statin medications to lower cholesterol. Even more surprising, cutting salt by 3 g per day was as effective in reducing death rates among people with hypertension as taking medication to control blood pressure.”

When you consider that high blood pressure alone has the potential to reduce the average life span by up to ten years missing one little teaspoon of salt doesn’t seem like too much to ask.



If there’s one thing you can count on this time of year it is standing in line – long lines.  Millions of those of us waiting in the checkout line have a lot more to worry about that succumbing to extreme boredom.

There are those of us who, when feeling a sneeze coming on, panic.  There are those of us who keep our fingers crossed that we won’t have abandon our place in line right before it’s our turn at bat.

Why would anyone be afraid of a sneeze and why would anyone in their right mind get out of a line they’ve been waiting in for the last half hour?

Urinary incontinence.  Not a very pretty subject perhaps for a post – but with an estimate of 26 million (yes, million) American adults struggling with urinary incontinence it is a needed post.  When you add to this that only 1 in 8 people who’ve had symptoms have had their symptoms diagnosed it is clear that this is a subject we need to get out in the open.

My primary objective in posting on urinary incontinence is to encourage anyone who is having issues to make an appointment and talk about it with their health practitioner.  Many of us hesitate, procrastinate, or just never speak up about symptoms we find embarrassing.  This, in and of itself, places our goal to live a healthy life in jeopardy.  Think of a “symptom” as your body saying “Hey, they might be something going on here.  Do me a favor and get it checked out.”

I also like to think that my blog posts help educate people – and making it our business to learn as much as we can is the foundation for living a healthy life.

There are two types of urinary incontinence:

  1. Stress Incontinence, and
  2. Urge Incontinence

The person waiting in line at the checkout stand afraid to sneeze is most likely experiencing stress incontinence.  The “stress” of stress incontinence means some type of pressure – physical pressure, not the kind of pressure that stresses you out at work.  A cough.  A sneeze.  A good laugh.  Hitting a bump or pot hole in the road.

The person afraid they might lose their place in line because they won’t be able to wait to get to the bathroom to urinate is most likely experiencing urge incontinence.  This type of incontinence does not necessarily have to mean that you literally “leak urine”.  To feel the “urge to go” is caused by nerve activity.  Those with urge incontinence feel they need to go NOW – and usually often.  Those with urge incontinency often find themselves getting up several times a night with the urge to go – yet may not actually need to “void” (empty) their bladder.

There is a third type of incontinence, but much more rare than the first two called “overflow incontinence”.  With this type the person experiences if not a constant, a consistent overflow of urine from the bladder and may not even feel the urge to go.

There are a variety of treatments prescribed for urinary incontinence – including the usual suspects:  pharmacological (prescribed medicine), as well as invasive procedures (such as surgery and/or mechanical implants).

There are also a variety of possible herbal remedies.  Of course these remedies are not generally properly researched (difficult to fund research for medicines you’re not going to patent for profit).  There are resources that discuss different herbal treatments online (see links below for both herbal remedies and more information about symptoms and treatments.)

Treating yourself with herbs is not something you should put into practice prior to having incontinency symptoms checked out by your medial practitioner (such as your physician, nurse practitioner.)

Urinary incontinence of whatever type can have numerous – including life threatening – underlying causes.  This is a symptom that you don’t want to “diagnose” for yourself.  Doing so can place you at great, and unnecessary, risk.

In my opinion it is best that your “traditional” health practitioner practices integrative medicine and can, when appropriate, refer you to a naturopathic physician whose training includes the medicinal use of herbs.






It’s been a long and stressful week at work.  Your shoulders are somewhere up around your ears.  The tension in your neck is so fierce that it actually hurts to check your side view mirror on the way home.

What a great game!  You’re having so much fun after joining your local neighborhood softball team.  Not only have you been having fun but the drills during practice have been a great way to drop a couple pounds and you feel more fit.  Last practice you might have overdone it a bit – right now you’re so sore you think you may have to skip practice this week.

“I need a massage!”

You’re probably right – a massage could go a long way to easing that tension in your shoulders and neck and relieving the muscle soreness after a that hard practice session.  However, the health benefits of massage extend beyond what most of us might think as simply a means to reduce tension in our bodies.

There is evidence that massage therapy can be an effective treatment modality for some forms of cancer.

Massage therapy has been found to lessen pain, increase the patient’s ability to handle the crisis their illness represents, as well as just generally improve their experience of the quality of their life.  Additional research is being conducted to understand just how massage therapy acts as a mechanism of relief.  However, many physicians recognize that this represents a “mind body” relationship significant enough to relieve symptoms.

In the article “Massage therapy for cancer patients: a reciprocal relationship between body and Mind” released by the Juravinski Cancer Program, Hamilton Health Sciences Corporation, McMaster University Departments of Oncology and Medicine, and the Centre for Applied Research of Centennial College researchers have acknowledged past studies that give evidence of the efficacy of massage therapy as a part of the treatment for some cancers.

They note, however that the manner in which massage therapy is “communicated” to the central nervous system which then produces the “electrophysiologic and chemical changes” that produce  “relief from a broad range of symptoms”.

Additionally, this group of researchers recommends further research involving technologies, such as nuclear resonance techniques, be conducted in order to more fully understand this process so it can be fully exploited as a treatment option.

They state, “The implications for symptom control in cancer patients are important, opening up new research avenues that link self-reported pain with the subjective quality of suffering. The reciprocal body–mind relationship and its manipulation is an important target for therapies that can reduce suffering.”

Collinge and Associates http://www.collinge.org

What was particularly exciting to me as I read this report was to see “traditional” medicine in a very formal manner embrace the need to study the body-mind relationship for the purpose of treating patients.  To see alternative modalities of care that were not that long ago considered by many, if not most, of traditionally trained medical physicians to be “mumbo jumbo” or “quackery” now be cited within the traditional medical community as avenues which deserve to be seriously studied and evaluated is, in my opinion, a giant step towards traditional medicine becoming more holistic in approach.

Please note:  If you are a cancer patient you must speak with your physician prior to utilizing massage therapy.  You may have underlying conditions that can place you at great risk – even death.  Rather than seek massage therapy on your own obtain a referral from your physician to a massage therapist trained and qualified to treat those with your specific cancer and symptoms.